Most of the whooper flock has arrived

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Nov. 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

The whoopers took their time making the trek, but most of the flock has arrived at their winter home.

While Aransas National Wildlife Refuge officials have not released a count of the number of birds that have arrived in South Texas, most of the radio-tagged birds have arrived, according to a release issued by refuge officials.

Wade Harrell, the whooping crane coordinator for the refuge, said they won't have a preliminary estimate of the size of the flock until the next report is issued next month.

Refuge biologists conducted the first counting flight of the season Wednesday. Based on the first flight, the cranes appear to be evenly distributed from Lamar to south of Port O'Connor and the marsh conditions look good, according to the release.

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association reports that the flock has swelled to 300 birds counted at the Wood Buffalo National Park nesting grounds in Canada. This year, the flock has 34 juvenile birds, including two sets of twins, according to a release issued by the association. Whoopers usually lay 2 eggs, but normally only one baby crane survives, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Some cranes have been spotted at Granger Lake near Austin and some have been spotted in Oklahoma.

This flock, the last known naturally migrating whooping cranes in existence, has travelled between the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada for thousands of years.

Milder winter conditions have led to a slower pace for the flock's annual migration.

The birds that have arrived already have been feeding on a plentiful wolfberry crop, according to the release. The blue crabs that the birds eat have also been reported in abundance in the area according to a survey conducted by refuge officials in September.



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